BANGKOK — Four out of five Thais are gamers – the highest ratio in Southeast Asia region – with smartphone gaming the most popular platform in the country, a report said.
YouGov, a British market research company, found that 82 percent of Thais surveyed play video games regularly, which is more than any other ASEAN member state, and a whopping 89 percent of Thai gamers play on smartphones, more than on any other device.
The popularity of mobile gaming isn’t surprising, given the high cost of PC parts and several other reasons, an editor of gaming news website Gaming Dose said.
“It isn’t very portable, and gives people the ‘gamer look,’” Settasilp Poonbumphen said by phone. “But everyone already has a phone, and usually games apps on it are free, making gaming more widely accessible.”
Thais scored the highest in gamer percentage out of 24 countries surveyed by YouGov. Coming in second was the Philippines at 80 percent, then Indonesia at 77 percent, which tied with Taiwan. The surveyed country with the lowest percentage of gamers was Denmark, where only 45 percent of the interviewees say they play video games.
Most Thai gamers play on smartphones (89 percent), followed by desktop/laptop computers (41 percent), tablets (28 percent), gaming consoles (15 percent), and handheld gaming devices (11 percent).
YouGov noted that countries in South and Southeast Asia tended generally had a higher percentage of mobile gamers and a lower share of console gamers, although in every surveyed country mobile games outnumbered other platforms.
Gaming Dose editor Settasilp said that mobile gaming first became massively popular among Thais in 2013 with Line messaging app’s Cookie Run, an endless runner that was massively popular in its heyday until the game was discontinued in Thailand in Oct. 2018.
Female Gamers Aren’t Rare At All
To some, the term “gamer” mostly conjures an image of a man. But the YouGov survey found that Thai male gamers are only slightly more than female: 84 percent of men said they played games, while 82 percent of women did.
Thai women are also more likely than men to game on their smartphones (93 percent of female games, as opposed to 86 percent of male counterparts).
The presence of women in gaming circles even got a pop culture nod from the 2020 Thai film “Mother Gamer,” whose plot features a mom who enters an esports contest against her own son to get him to focus on his studies.
The unlikely protagonist might not be so far off from reality either. According to the survey, 59 percent of Thai respondents over 55 said that they play video games on any device.
“My 63-year-old dad has been playing games since Pac-Man in the arcade. Now he’s playing the same games as his grandkids,” Settasilp said. “Older people who weren’t used to games are starting to, because it’s become so massively popular in general.”
Settasilp also said he knows a third-grader who is teaching his parents to play mobile games.
Mobile is King
The undisputedly most popular mobile game in Thailand, said Settasilp, is Arena of Valor, called RoV in Thai. Genshin Impact, and Call of Duty mobile are also widely played.
In fact, it was Tencent Games and Garena, which publish and distribute RoV, who sponsored the film “Mother Gamer.” Such heavy-handed promotion is part of why the game is so popular in Thailand.
“So you can see all the ads for Garena games all over, on TV, in the skytrain. Line app promotes their games in the messaging app,” Settasilp said. “This is unlike PC games, which don’t usually have support or ads in Thai.”
Most Thai smartphone gamers (64 percent) played between one to 10 hours per week. The surveyed Thai gamers said they were mostly aware of YouTube and Facebook as gaming platforms (68 percent and 61 percent, respectively).
When choosing which games to play on desktop, Thai gamers usually watch what famous streamers are playing, then try out the games for themselves.
“A lot of people started playing Dead by Daylight and Among Us because the streamers made it look fun,” he said.
The future of gaming in Thailand will hopefully see more localized support across many platforms. Settasilp said that when talking to overseas game studios, Thai language support is the first priority after providing support for “developed countries” such as Japan and Korea.
“We heard that, hopefully, Cyberpunk coming out next month will have Thai subtitles,” he said.
The survey on YouGov was conducted between Sept. 3 and 7 on 8,394 people served across six ASEAN nations: Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
A total of 2,079 Thais were surveyed in return for compensation and is representative of the online population. Read YouGov’s full report here.